LAUNCH OF PILOT TO PAY FARMERS FOR BIODIVERSITY IN COMBINATION WITH CARBON
- The Australian Farm Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot aims to pay farmers for biodiversity in combination with planting trees for carbon gains
- The pilot gives farmers the chance to diversify their income and drought-proof their businesses
- This will make farm businesses and regional communities more resilient
Farmers in six different trial regions have the chance to diversify their farm income and improve their drought resilience as part of a new Australian Government trial launched today.
Speaking from Bunya Grove Produce in Amamoor south of Gympie, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the Carbon+Biodiversity pilot, being delivered under the government’s Agricultural Stewardship Package, will see farmers being paid for biodiversity benefits of mixed-species tree plantings as part of their carbon projects.
“Farmers have been doing biodiversity and carbon work for decades and it’s time they were paid for it. They can already participate in carbon markets under the Emissions Reduction Fund, but today we will start trialling a new approach that will also see them paid for the biodiversity benefits they deliver.
“We don’t want to lock up land – we want this work to go hand in hand with a productive farming enterprise. Our farmers produce some of the best food and fibre in the world and we want to reward them for delivering positive outcomes for the community, while also improving the financial sustainability of their own farm business.
“I don’t care who believes in climate change or how much, because I know farmers believe in economics and numbers. Farmers can be part of the solution and this pilot will prove that.”
As part of the pilot, the Australian National University has created the processes and protocols that measure and reward farmers for undertaking the plantings, delivering a system which will be respected by international markets.
ANU Professor Andrew Macintosh said planting blocks or shelterbelts of 20 metres or wider using one of the lists of native plant species created for this pilot would see farmers paid for both biodiversity and carbon gains.
“The system delivers rewards for farmers that are achieving measurable biodiversity gains,” Professor Macintosh said.
“If planting areas include mature trees, are near watercourses, or provide good habitat for threatened species, this gives the project a higher biodiversity benefit score. If a bushfire comes through and the trees do not naturally regenerate, the farmer is expected to replant but does not need to pay any money back.”
Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O’Brien said the pilot program had potential to deliver a win-win solution for farmers and the land.
“We know that Wide Bay farmers like Bunya Grove Produce’s Mick and Kylie Carr love the land, they look after it, and they understand it better than anyone,” Mr O’Brien said.
“This program offers a unique opportunity to support the work they are already doing, and build upon it, in a way that will benefit biodiversity, the environment and future generations.”
Cattle Council CEO Travis Tobin said nearly 80 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land is cattle country, and beef producers have indicated biodiversity is a priority for them.
“Cattle Council supports opportunities to diversify farm income while improving on-farm biodiversity. “This pilot is for producers that want to be rewarded for their environmental work and it respects the producer’s right to choose.”
Six Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions across Australia have been selected to be included in the pilot: Burnett-Mary (QLD), Central West (NSW), North Central (VIC), North Tasmania (TAS), Eyre Peninsula (SA) and South-west (WA). Regions have been selected, amongst other criteria, to test the program across a range of jurisdictions, farming systems, and vegetation types.
Burnett Mary Regional NRM Group CEO Sheila Charlesworth said her group was thrilled to be part of the pilot.
“We will assist the farmers in our region to be part of this ground-breaking pilot, which will deliver a premium price whilst also rewarding them for protecting our natural resources.”
For more details or to apply for the program, please go to https://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/natural-resources/landcare/sustaining-future-australian-farming
Hypothetical case study:
Jane and Joe are beef farmers who own 500 hectares. They decide to plant 10 per cent, or 50ha, of the property into shelterbelts and block plantings, incorporating some of the old trees already on the farm. The plantings are designed to boost productivity by providing shelter for their cattle and addressing erosion issues in gullies and hillsides. Jane and Joe continue to farm beef on the remaining 90 per cent of their farm.
Jane and Joe will receive payments from the Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot for the first three years of the project and carbon credits for at least 25 years, which can be sold to the Australian Government under the Emissions Reduction Fund or to private buyers. If the plantings are well managed, the profit from the plantings will be greater than what Jane and Joe would have otherwise earned from the land. They should also see an increase in beef production from the improvement in shelter. Overall, the plantings should boost the returns from their farm and provide them with improved drought resilience.
Jane and Joe have contributed to making their community more sustainable – both from a climate and biodiversity perspective – while increasing and diversifying their farm income